Museums , parks and stops of interest on Vancouver Island
This list is by no means extensive but will give you an idea of some of the places you may want to see while you are on Vancouver Island.
Victoria is a great little city with it’s history still preserved to some extent, certainly more than Vancouver. Just a walk around the downtown core from the Legislature north to the Chinatown is worthwhile. The Royal BC Museum (www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca ) is worth a few hours. Walking tours are numerous go to http://www.discoverthepast.com for content and schedules. There are a variety of other tourist things you can do from whale watching to touring gardens like the famous Buchart Gardens. Go to http://www.tourismvictoria.com for more info.
If you are coming from Victoria you will be driving through the Malahat Highway which is very scenic and on clear days has viewing stations that should be stopped for.
Duncan and the Cowichan Valley is quite beautiful and has a strong First Nations presence.The Quw’utsun Cultural Centre is worth a stop. Duncan also has EJ Hughes gallery on Station St that has a number of prints from this original BC artist.
If you have time detours to Cowichan Bay with its Maritime Centre or to Cheminus with it’s famous wall murals depicting the towns history is worthwhile.
Ladysmith , which was the start of the Vancouver Island coalfields, has a preserved buildings from that period (1890-1920) on it’s main street.
A little north of Ladysmith is the Morden mine site and it has the last standing tipple on the Island. Go to http://www.mordenmine.com for directions. If the walk around the tipple gets you a little hungry or thirsty drive to the Crow and Gate, as close to an authentic English country pub as you’ll find outside of Sussex. The Crow and Gate Pub (www.crowandgate.ca )
Nanaimo was the center of coal mining on the Island with mines at Wellington, Extension and right downtown. The ground underneath is riddled with tunnels. The walkway along the waterfront is both scenic and informative. Over the last few years the downtown area has been transformed with the addition of public art gallery, concert hall and museum ( http://www.nanaimomuseum.ca ) spaces that has attracted some good restaurants and interesting stores.
You can take two routes north to Cumberland either the Inland Highway which is essentially a boring freeway but useful if you are short of time. Otherwise take the Old Island Highway (19A) that goes, for the most part, along the seashore. One of the nicest beaches is at Rathtrevor Beach in Parksville. There is also the Milner Gardens just north of Parksville. Or you can take a side trip to a number of parks such as Horne Lakes Caves or Little Qualicum Falls. Coombs is a popular if kitschy shopping destination known for its goats on the roof.
Courtenay is the major town in the Comox Valley and is a strange mash up of interesting cultural events and progressive grassroots activists with coarse commercialism and backward governance. If you are into dinosaurs the Courtenay Museum has it covered. The Comox Valley Art Gallery has interesting shows and there are a number of independent galleries around. One to check out is operated by the K’omoks First Nation and is called the I-hos Gallery. Andy Everson, who designed the logo for the ‘idle No More’ movement has a number of his works there. If you are into mountain biking there are a number of options in Cumberland and up on Mount Washington. There are a number of beautiful parks in the area including Miracle Beach, Seal Bay and one of the few that can get crowded, Goose Spit.
Cumberland, where the conference is being held, is a gem. No franchises and a youthful population makes it a very culturally alive venue. There are lots of trails for both hiking and bike riding. Comox Lake, where many Miners Memorial attendees camp out for that weekend is a well-run and beautiful spot.